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Morphomechanical Innovation Drives Explosive Seed Dispersal

Hofhuis, H; Moulton, D; Lessinnes, T; Routier-Kierzkowska, A L; Bomphrey, R J; Mosca, G; Reinhardt, R; Sarchet, P; Gan, X; Tsiantis, M; Ventikos, Y; Walker, S; Goriely, A; Smith, R; Hay, A


H Hofhuis

D Moulton

T Lessinnes

A L Routier-Kierzkowska

R J Bomphrey

G Mosca

R Reinhardt

P Sarchet

X Gan

M Tsiantis

Y Ventikos

S Walker

A Goriely

R Smith

A Hay


How mechanical and biological processes are coordinated across cells, tissues, and organs to produce complex traits is a key question in biology. Cardamine hirsuta, a relative of Arabidopsis thaliana, uses an explosive mechanism to disperse its seeds. We show that this trait evolved through morphomechanical innovations at different spatial scales. At the organ scale, tension within the fruit wall generates the elastic energy required for explosion. This tension is produced by differential contraction of fruit wall tissues through an active mechanism involving turgor pressure, cell geometry, and wall properties of the epidermis. Explosive release of this tension is controlled at the cellular scale by asymmetric lignin deposition within endocarp b cells—a striking pattern that is strictly associated with explosive pod shatter across the Brassicaceae plant family. By bridging these different scales, we present an integrated mechanism for explosive seed dispersal that links evolutionary novelty with complex trait innovation.


Hofhuis, H., Moulton, D., Lessinnes, T., Routier-Kierzkowska, A. L., Bomphrey, R. J., Mosca, G., …Hay, A. (2016). Morphomechanical Innovation Drives Explosive Seed Dispersal. Cell, 166, 222-233.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 15, 2016
Publication Date Jun 2, 2016
Deposit Date Jun 4, 2016
Publicly Available Date Jun 4, 2016
Journal Cell
Print ISSN 0092-8674
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 166
Pages 222-233
Public URL


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